When the news broke of Uriah Sanders’ disappearance, the Cal Poly Pomona and local community took it upon itself to find him, and successfully did so on July 20. His family now assures he is safe. Sanders, a 22-year-old Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and former ASI president, went missing on July 3.
Sanders was last seen by his roommate, leaving his apartment in Montclair with nothing but a laptop. It wasn’t until Sanders’ missing persons flyer started circulating social media on July 16 that the community took immediate action.
On July 17, CPP and ASI posted word of his disappearance on all social media platforms.
According to a message sent on a Discord server by Sanders’ father, who goes by username “Mr. Thornton,” Sanders contacted him on the evening he went missing and assured him he was safe. His father acknowledged he needed space for some personal reasons. Sanders promised his father he would contact him when he was ready.
This is normal, according to Sanders’ aunt Kanisha Pugh, as he has a phone with no service and usually takes about a week to get back to people but is constantly in contact with someone.
However, after 11 days of the family searching and inquiring for Sanders, they filed a missing person report.
A Discord server was made to organize community search parties by CPP alumni and friends of Sanders. The account was organized under channels labeled “what we know,” “search group organization,” “resources,” and more.
As the word got out, the account accumulated over 250 participants.
Discord is a software and phone application utilized as a platform for community group chats and instant messaging.
Summer Blanco, a former CPP student who graduated in May and remains a close friend of Sanders, set the Discord server in motion. From there — Blanco and another friend of Sanders coordinated search routes and groups to post and hand out flyers in surrounding cities.
Blanco has known Sanders for several years; she says they had multiple classes and an internship together. When she acquired the news of his disappearance, she was shocked, given the type of person she says he is.
“He’s an extrovert, always smiling, always laughing; some describe him as always sunny,” Blanco said.
Over the course of three days, the account flooded with ideas to spread the word of Sanders’ disappearance and possible ways to locate him. Students also took it as an opportunity to share the positive impacts Sanders left on their lives.
“Uriah was so gentle, kind and well spoken. For the little bit of time we walked and talked he left an impression on me. I want him to come home safe,” said user Rodney E.F. in the Discord chat.
After four days of non-stop search efforts he was found walking on a beach by a friend of his on July 20, according to his mother, Jeania Sanders, in a Facebook post. She says he let her know he was unaware of all search efforts but insisted he simply needed to get away. For now, Sanders remains on his own and told his mother he will speak to his friends and loved ones soon.
Jeania Sanders also expressed her gratitude for the community’s efforts and asks that everyone continues to look out for Sanders and his safety.
“Please encourage him, speak to him, help him with what you can, and send love his way while he maneuvers in the way he thinks best,” she added.
Pugh, Sanders’ aunt who first released the flyer with information of his disappearance, was in touch with Blanco all weekend and engaging in the chat. She said the experience was emotional.
“I can’t put it into words, it was just a huge outpouring of support and love. I’ve never seen so many people band together … he doesn’t even know it, he’s so bright.”